Cucumbers can be started indoors in peat pots or small flats and transplanted to the garden a couple weeks thereafter but only when all danger of frost has passed. Before you move them to the garden, however, harden the cucumber plants off in a protected location to lessen any stress that may occur during transplanting. During cool periods, cucumbers can be covered with plant protectors as well.
Where to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers like warm, humid weather; loose, organic soil; and plenty of sunlight. They grow well in most regions of the United States and do especially well in the South. When planting cucumbers, choose a site that has adequate drainage and fertile soil. Good soil will have plenty of organic matter, such as compost. Adding compost to the soil will help get your cucumbers off to a good start, and applying an organic fertilizer such as manure will help give the plants nutrients during growth. When you begin preparing the soil, remove any rocks, sticks or other debris and then mix ample amounts of organic matter and fertilizer into the soil. Cucumbers may be planted in hills or rows about 1 inch deep and thinned as needed. Since cucumbers are a vine crop, they usually require a lot of space. In large gardens, cucumber vines may spread throughout rows; within smaller gardens, cucumbers may be trained for climbing on a fence or trellis. Training cucumbers on a fence or trellis will reduce space and lift the fruit off the soil. This method also can provide your garden with a neater appearance. The bush or compact varieties are quite suitable for growing in small spaces or even in containers.
How to Know When a Cucumber is Ripe
Cucumber harvesting isn’t an exact science. However, cucumbers are generally ripe and ready for harvest anywhere from 50 to 70 days after planting. A cucumber is normally considered ripe when it is bright medium to dark green and firm. You should avoid cucumber harvesting when cucumbers are yellow, puffy, have sunken areas, or wrinkled tips. These are well beyond being ripe and should be discarded promptly.
When to Pick a Cucumber
Many cucumbers are eaten when immature. You can pick cucumbers at any time before they become too seedy or seeds become hard. Thin cucumbers will generally have less seeds than those that are thicker; therefore, you may want to choose smaller ones rather than allowing them to remain on the vine. In fact, most cucumbers are routinely picked by size, between 2-8 inches long. The best size for when to pick a cucumber usually depends on their use and variety. For instance, cucumbers that are cultivated for pickles are much smaller than those used for slicing. Since cucumbers grow quickly, they should be picked at least every other day.